from The Garden

Prelapsarian 

Sistertwins. Charyl and Charon. Even with a year between them, they are indistinguishable they like to playforget who is who. In school with teachers and classmates. At home with their stepfather. At least that’s what their mother asks them to call him when he moves in. Nobody knows they’re not married except Charyl and Charon. He’s rougher with Charyl. Hurts her more. Touching and pinching her harder. Sometimes he hits her. So Charon becomes Charyl when he’s home with them alone. When they’re home sick with chicken pox. After he touches her, says “go get your sister.” They change clothes in their bedroom and Charon goes back to him a second time. As Charyl. Gets touched twice. Squirms and cries more because she’s Charyl now.  He can never tell the difference between them. He’s there when they come home from school with lice with special shampoo to wash their hair. He tells them he will wash their hair in the kitchen sink. His own mother used to wash her hair this way. He bends each of them forward until their heads are under the tepid stream of water from the kitchen faucet. Presses his torso hard against them while washing their hair. Charon can hear Charyl crying while he turns off the faucet and wrings her hair. When he put his wet hands under her t-shirt helping her down from the chair, Charyl bites him, leaving marks that draw blood. He slaps her and sends them to their bedroom. The door doesn’t have a lock. He pushes the door open and grabs them each in turn, dragging them onto the floor by their hair, where he  chops off their long red locks. He leaves and returns with an electric razor, which he uses to shave their heads. Another remedy for treating lice, he says. Their mother can’t stop crying when she gets home from work. What did you do to my beautiful daughters? He shows her Charyl’s teeth marks on his arm. Seared red into his flesh like a brand. There is no dinner. In their bedroom they cry into each other’s necks, lying with their bodies curled around each other like snakes. Charyl, still grasping long clumps of her hair, repeats through her weeping, “I will never cut my hair again. I will never cut my hair again. Never again. Never. Again.” From downstairs, screaming and yelling, the crash of plates and glassware. In a rare show of maternal rage, their mother tells him to leave. Throws him out. Throws his clothes, shoes, his toiletry case, the cutting shears, and his electric razor out the bedroom window. and onto the front lawn. They never see him again. 

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